Bringing Anju Home – Part One

Florida, 25th February - 22nd May 2015

Our last ever month in the boatyard at Green Cove Springs Marina was spent getting Anju spruced up and ready for her big trip home. By the time we left the marina after a month of grime and hard work, we were ready for a much needed vacation.

It was to be our last trip southwards in Florida, so we opted for the Intracoastal Waterway route for most of the journey and the chance to re-visit some of our favourite Florida spots.

The trip down the St. Johns River was broken up with stops at the Jacksonville landing and a night anchored at Blount Island, to make the most of the tides. A sunrise start the next day got us to St Augustine by lunchtime, giving us the chance to catch up with Jack and Gerda on Sadie A for a curry supper on their new power boat.

Sunrise at Blount Island

Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine

Coffee Shop, St. Augustine style

After a couple of restful sight-seeing days, we headed south again on the Intracoastal Waterway, making an overnight stop at Daytona, where for the first time we visited the town's famous beach. Onwards to Titusville and then another stop at Palm Bay

You never quite knew what you might find around the next curve of the ICW.

Pirate Ship Assembly Line?

Man down – or diving boat high and dry.

Diane and Robert

We reached the cruisers' Mecca of Vero Beach Municipal Marina and took a break for a couple of days.

Here we made the most of the free bus service to stock up and enjoy the beach. We were delighted to run into Robert and Diane on Silver Girl, friends from Green Cove Springs and another curry was cooked!

Headed south again, we hoped to catch up with George and Julie from Seaquel in Stuart but were alarmed by the shallow depths of the water in the St. Lucie River there, particularly as we'd just run aground attempting an anchorage purported to have enough depth at Jenson Beach.

We resigned ourselves to calling in on our way north when we would be in a hire car instead and made our way to Peck Lake.

We'd been either just ahead or just behind a boat called Rachel, from Jacksonville for several days on the ICW and, spotting them anchored beside us, we headed over to say 'hi'. We were promptly invited to stay for dinner aboard with Greg and Rachel.

Our next scheduled stop was the Customs office in Lake Worth, as our cruising permit was about to expire, meaning we'd have to clear in and out of every port like a large ship.

We managed to get through Jupiter, a spot where we had run aground in the past, and onward to Lake Worth. A few days in the North Lake Worth anchorage had us resupplied and we moved to the inlet to make our visit to Customs.

Leaving Peck Lake

Our plan was to leave Lake Worth for Fort Lauderdale at 2 am the day after our cruising permit expired at midnight. The reason for this bizarre decision was constant bombardment with South Easterly headwinds the entire trip while we headed south easterly down Florida. In order to head offshore to Fort Lauderdale, thereby avoiding a day of 19 bridges in the ICW, we had to leave when there was no wind at all, which meant a 2 am start.

Diligently we headed to customs for our clearance papers, only to be told that we couldn't have any because our cruising permit was still valid until midnight. Despite our efforts to explain in words of one syllable that we were leaving two hours after the expiration deadline, the unfriendly officer stubbornly refused to issue papers and we left the office empty handed.

Not wanting to move illegally in the country, we checked with our contact at Jacksonville in the Customs office, who reassured us that we were correct and should have been issued with papers. She suggested that her colleague obviously wasn't going to oblige and that when we arrived in Miami we could only explain what had happened. As we suspected, on arrival in Miami we were ticked off for not having the correct paperwork. The bureaucracy and the whims of sundry officials were aspects of overseas cruising we definitely weren't going to miss!

After ducking in at Fort Lauderdale to catch up on our sleep, we headed down the ICW the next morning from there to Miami. This was a new stretch of ICW for Anju, as previously we'd always gone offshore.

We ran into a small hitch at the W79th Street bridge. This was the only one of that day's half dozen bridges due to open on request rather than at a specific time. Thereforeand we'd given it little consideration in our plan, only to find it unable to open for us as it was blocked by a road accident. An unscheduled anchoring stop in the ICW channel was required while we waited for the tow truck before we were finally on our way to Miami.

Our last bridge of the day, the Venetian Causeway, was hard to see, the channel markers also completely obscured in a torrential downpour. Thank goodness for the chart plotter!

Miami sunset

Strange regular sight in our anchorage

Botanical Gardens in Miami

The anchorage between downtown Miami and South Beach has always been one of our favourite spots and we made the most of our three week stay, enjoying the beach and the rental bikes. When temperatures hit a record high for the time of year, we were very glad of the beach.

On our first visit to the Customs for our telling off, we ran into a group of young Norwegians who had crossed the Atlantic in a leaky wooden sailing boat. Although they had been issued a year's cruising permit for the US in Puerto Rico and had queried whether it was OK to make a stop in Cuba on the way to the States, the unfriendly officials in Miami decided to rescind their permit. This meant that their six week cruise up the East coast would involve numerous trips to different Customs offices. We gave them some old charts and off they set out to sea. Their plan was to cruise up the ICW, despite a draft of seven feet and no depth sounder! Off they sailed, just before a tropical depression hit the Carolinas. We hoped they were lucky.

Diane and Robert caught up with us again shortly thereafter and we had more fun exploring together.

South Beach Miami

The date our ship was due to come in at Port Everglades crept closer and wanting to be there a good week before the due date, we headed offshore north from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. In the inlet we were given a harsh send-off by a nasty bunch of wind-over-tide standing waves, before reaching the calm of the ocean.

We headed to Lake Sylvia anchorage, about the only spot in Fort Lauderdale where you could still anchor with no restrictions. It was a relatively small and very protected lagoon, surrounded by properties undoubtedly worth multiples of millions of dollars.

Our week long wait eventually became two and we filled some of our spare time meeting and helping out neighbours in the anchorage.

Dominic and Sarah on Sea Wolf were just beginning their cruising adventure, with Bear their gorgeous dog. They were forced back to Fort Lauderdale to repair a broken forestay and we helped them out with whatever assistance, gear and advice we could offer.

Meanwhile, our original ship got repeatedly delayed in Mexico and as the date we'd been forced to guess at to book a return flight to the UK was approaching, we were getting nervous. Finally we had word, the original ship would be replaced by HHL Lagos, leaving Corpus Christi Texas and due in on Sunday. It was time to start preparations in earnest to make Anju ready to sit for several weeks on the deck of the ship across the Atlantic Ocean.

Sarah, Dominic and Bear come over for dinner.

Mega Bucks, sorry Yachts

We broke up work sessions with visits ashore. The only spot to safely tie up a dinghy in Fort Lauderdale was at the Southport Raw Bar, where a charge of ten dollars was made. Not too expensive considering you could use that ten dollar ticket against food and drink when you got back. It turned out to be the bar we had visited on our one day stopover in Fort Lauderdale in 2000, when we'd just completed a transatlantic delivery! Of all the bars in all the world.......

Fort Lauderdale was a definite hub of the Mega Yacht. Industry, the decadence almost nauseating with billions of dollars worth of superyachts sitting idle at the dock being polished by bored crew.

We wondered why so many were foreign flagged, bearing in mind the hassle of the US Cruising Permit System we'd endured. A Captain we chatted to at the Customs Office, where we had become regulars, enlightened us, telling us that US flagged vessels must have US crew. The crews we met were mostly South African or Antipodean and presumably cheaper to employ.

Southport Raw Bar

Our ship finally comes in!

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